Editorial, February 18, 2011

Cairo’s coup de grace

WHEN Hosni Mubarak stepped down as Egyptian president last week, turning his country over to the army and satisfying the number-one demand of anti-government demonstrators, it ended one period of uncertainty for Israel only to replace it with another.
For the record, Israeli leaders never took a stand for or against the uprising, which drew the ire of the self-righteous and led one prominent Middle East analyst to accuse Israel of tacitly siding with “the pharoah”.
All grandstanding and pundit pontifications aside, as Egypt’s neighbour and peace partner, the Israeli Government was absolutely correct to recuse itself from the public debate. For what if, for argument’s sake, Israel had openly backed the uprising? If it had ebbed or been put down, where would that have left Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu?
Similarly, one could not imagine Israel’s Arab neighbours, including its peace partner to the east, Jordan, responding well to the open interference and undermining of a neighbouring power.
How ironic that some of the same analysts who criticised Israel last week for not joining the chorus calling for Mubarak’s ouster have also urged Israeli leaders to bend over backwards to appease Syria’s own dictator, Bashar Assad. No matter. With the fog of the unknown continuing to shroud Egypt’s
present and future, Israel has already shifted its focus to the challenges ahead.
At the same time as Egypt’s Higher Military Council of the armed forces assumed temporary power vacated by Mubarak, it reaffirmed its commitment to abide by Egypt’s treaties. It was a welcome if expected move that should pass the buck of whether Egypt will continue to abide by its 1979 Camp David Accords with Israel over to Cairo’s next elected government.
The more imminent test for Egypt’s interim leaders will be to what extent they will continue to assist Israel and the US in preventing the smuggling of arms to Gaza through the Sinai.
The answer to both the immediate question of the viability of the blockade and the longer-term question of the durability of the Camp David Accords circles back to the key issue on everyone’s minds.
Namely, to what extent the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood and other destabilising groups critical of Egypt’s alliance with Israel will sway the country’s interim leaders as well as its next official government.
All we can do now is wait and see. Israel’s leader, Netanyahu, who stayed out of the game until now, bears the responsibility to prepare his country for any outcome, whatever cards are dealt.

No laughing matter

THE “laughing stock of the world” and “a joke”. Two terms used to describe Marrickville Council by one of its own councillors this week, after it passed a resolution last December subscribing to the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
But, in reality, just how funny is the motion?
Certainly there are elements of the absurd about it. For all the “noble” intentions that some may ascribe to this grandstanding platform, nothing has actually been achieved in the past two months. Well, we say nothing, but in fact, it seems, an immense amount of time, effort and money has been expended trying to work out how to put the policy into practice.
As for the motion itself, much has already been written in these pages and elsewhere, as to the sinister undertones of BDS and the true motives of those behind the movement. And there’s certainly nothing funny about those.
One need only consider the words of the campaign’s founder, Omar Barghouti, who has voiced his vision of “a Palestine next to a Palestine, rather than a Palestine next to an Israel”. Is this truly what those who advocate a boycott believe in, when in the words of the Marrickville Council motion, they “support the principles of the BDS campaign”? Possibly not. But when they lend their names to a cause that condemns Israel as an apartheid regime and perpetuates only one side of the narrative, they wittingly or unwittingly fuel the flames of delegitimisation that threaten the Jewish State’s very existence.
And on a local level, that one-sided narrative is reinforced. Marrickville’s motion, like the NSW Greens before them and other boycotters, condemns Israel, but there’s no mention of the sustained terror campaign waged against Israeli citizens, the refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist, or the virulent anti-Semitism preached from Palestinian pulpits, broadcast on Palestinian television and taught in Palestinian schools.
In reality, as visiting US unionist Stuart Applebaum observes in The AJN this week, trade can be a tool to help resolve the conflict – not by boycotting it though, but by inviting all parties to the table to forge ties, rather than destroy them. The same applies in the field of sport and culture. We must strive to break down the barriers, not build new ones.
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